Turning 50 is a big deal! It innocently sneaks up on you like an animal of prey and suddenly it’s upon you, stopping you in your tracks and throwing you quite off balance, forcing you to contemplate your life. After attending the recent Fitness Expo as an official representative of the “ageing population” and attending some inspirational workshops, I have however had an epiphany and I hope you don’t mind if I share it. Believe it or not, for women of a certain age, there are wonderful possibilities and plenty of solutions for issues that many of us may face.
Similar to inequality in the workplace, there appears to also be inequality of aging. Men do it well, become silver foxes, have love handles and become distinguished. They slip seemingly effortlessly into their later middle years, their world unfettered by their reproductive ability. Women however fight tooth and nail to maintain the allure of youth and fertility, spending fortunes on anti aging remedies, subjecting themselves to painful treatments and constantly being stressed by their muffin tops and greying coiffs.
I propose that we must emulate that blokey, mojo-charged, self confident attitude and celebrate our new found freedom! That bogie of the female fifties called menopause which most of us are contemplating or experiencing, is not an apocalyptic sign. It is instead a wonderful event which must be celebrated. Our lives are liberated, unrestricted by monthly cycles, lunar phases and no longer slaves to our hormones. No more periods, no more PMS, no more menstrual pain, no more pregnancy. Let’s face, being reproductive was really no bed of roses. But let’s move on (or down) and address some reported issues of menopause.
After menopause, do we really just shrivel up - I believe the official word is ‘atrophy”? At the risk of making this X rated, we are in a use it or lose it situation. Like any tissue in the body, blood flow to the area is the key to keeping everything as it should be. As the oestrogen in our bodies diminishes, adrenaline kicks in and takes over. With the help of a little testosterone, we should officially be sex machines. Make sure you are having fun in this area, invest in plenty of batteries if need be, make sure this is the climax of a lifetime! Any other issues can easily be dealt with using over the counter (or online purchased) run of the mill products – just make sure they are water based. Phew, I managed to avoid mentioning VJ even once in that paragraph!
Still not convinced that there is fun after menopause? Then the issue is most probably related to your self esteem and perceptions of aging. Luckily we have science as our friend. On a cellular level, aging is the heart’s capacity decreasing and our mitochondria taking a bit of strain. The mitochondria are the energy producing power houses of our cells responsible for their repair. If, however, we can keep these mitochondria oxygenated and functioning efficiently, we can keep our biological age in check and with it, many of the physical signs of ageing. And how do we best oxygenate the mitochondria? That’s where I puff out my chest and offer you a good, old HIIT Chocolate session.
Alternatively find an intense activity or sport that puts you in your happy place. Whilst doing so, discover some new possibilities, adventures and friends as you have probably got a bit more time now. Mix it up, keep it functional, make sure it’s intense and performed it at least three times per week. Three times per week HIIT and resistance and an additional 4 days of other activity. We probably need considerably more than the 10,000 steps per day that is currently being recommended so sneak it in during your day wherever possible. Research shows that one hour’s hard physical workout is completely cancelled out if you spend the rest of the day seated.
One proviso, make sure that your chosen activity does not add to your stress levels. Your workout should be the highlight of your day and at the end, you should feel taller not crippled. If you are stressed or unwell, opt for lighter options such as yoga, meditation or a scenic walk.
Managing stress levels is the ticket. Stress increases cortisol levels, fatiguing our adrenal glands and encouraging our bodies to store fat around the abs. You might choose to call them love handles, but if you burn out your adrenals, there won’t be any of the good stuff left to take over from the oestrogen, and the love part (mentioned previously) sure won’t happen!
Increased cortisol won’t help your sleep patterns either. Elevated cortisol and hot flushes can combine to bring out the insomniac in all of us. Take off that extra blanket, buy a decent fan and use some meditation or foam rolling if you find yourself wide awake and sweltering. A good bout of exercise and some well directed blood flow will have you will be sleeping like a baby.
Finally, I hear a regularly recited cliché “there appears to be this new layer of padding that I just can’t shift”. It’s time to look at what you eat, without letting the very thought of self denial create more stress. So don’t go into a gastronomic panic. There are so many delicious and exciting new options around. Ancient grains were never heard of when I was at uni – does that make me sound even more ancient? Superfoods are buzzing around our food vocabulary and are so easy to source. Plus there is an article on gut health in every magazine at the hair dresser. Reducing your sugar and starch intake, focussing on low GI carbs will not only manage the padding, but will keep many diseases at bay. As will loads of water consumption-most of us don’t drink nearly enough of the stuff.
Great nutrition, full body exercise and stress management are our keys to an easy transition through menopause and an enhanced lifestyle. Menopause is a wonderful sign to women to literally pause, take stock of any unresolved issues, and go forth into your fifties in great health. It is the sign of so much future fun!